Fox at TCA: “We won’t miss American Idol.” (Sure.)

Plus: Seth MacFarlane chats up The Orville; Fox execs try to explain their screw-ups; and more

With TCA finally winding down, the last two networks presented this week was Fox and its cable siblings, FX and FXX.

In the Fox executive session, Fox entertainment co-president Dana Walden defended the decision to drop American Idol, only to see it cross the street to go to rival ABC.  According to Fox, ratings declined (though they did go up in the “final” season) and the show no longer made financial sense for the network.

“It was a really tough decision to make,” Walden was quoted as saying, adding that “the economics were terrible for us at that moment.”

Still, Idol is stronger than anything Fox has on in prime-time at the moment. Now Disney stands to benefit from Idol – certainly helping ABC, whose ratings are just as bad as Fox’s.

As a replacement, Fox announced The Four, which generated about as much excitement as a Los Angeles Rams game.

Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane appeared with the cast of The Orville, a new one-hour sci-fi dramedy set in the 25th Century (just like Buck Rogers), but it’s the comparison to Star Trek that’s getting the most notice.  “Star Trek itself sprang from a lot of different sci-fi tropes that came before it. The idea of a ship, in the naval sense, cruising in space did not originate with that show”, MacFarlane said to reporters. 

Some critics were skeptical about the project, with one even compared it to some science-fiction syndicated programs from the 1990s, saying it isn’t “today’s science fiction”. But MacFarlane didn’t seem to mind, saying “he misses the optimism”. Executive producer David A. Goodman also noted there is room for two shows of a similar nature, with Star Trek: Discovery launching next month on CBS All-Access.

The trailer yours truly saw seemed awkward and you have to question MacFarlane’s acting skills. But if anyone can pull off a sci-fi show with a balance of comedy and drama, he can. And its Thursday time slot (effective Sept. 28) is a great alternative for those who don’t want to watch the tired Big Bang Theory or NBC’s comedies. The Orville premieres Sept. 10, after NFL action.


In other Fox/FX news at TCA:

In addition to The Four, Fox announced it was staging a live production of 1983 theatrical classic A Christmas Story with Maya Rudolph in the lead. Meanwhile, FX renewed underachieving drama Snowfall for next season, and Fox renewed Love Connection and Shazam for a second year – both likely to return next summer.


Joining Full House, Roseanne and Will & Grace on the reboot train is…King Of The Hill? Reports surfaced Tuesday the long-running animated series could make a comeback. Walden said she’s had conversations with series creators Greg Daniels and Mike Judge, who have since moved on to other projects – the latter involved in HBO’s Silicon Valley. “We had a very preliminary conversation,” Walden told the crowd at TCA. “Given what’s going on in the country, (Judge and Daniels) had a point of view about how these characters would respond.”

A few principals from Hill such as Loren Bouchard and Jim Dautrieve (who last name is also the same as one of Hill’s characters) now work on Bob’s Burgers.

Hill premiered on January 12, 1997 and ran for thirteen seasons, ending quietly in 2009 with a few leftover episodes airing exclusively in off-net syndication in 2010. Now in its second syndication cycle, Hill continues to be a strong performer. In addition to its adult swim run, many local stations pair it other Twentieth animated comedies, including Weigel’s WCIU and U Too.


John Landegraf. (Ray Mickshaw/Fox)

FX head John Landgraf gave his bi-annual “State of TV” address on Wednesday. Famous for saying there was “too much TV”, the end of 2017, will see more of it. He points out the number of scripted shows now stands at 342 currently on the air, and could go up to 500 by the end of the year.

Landgraf compared the Silicon Valley giants fueling much of the “too much TV” talk to computers – “I want humans to win against the machines”. he was quoted as saying. And Deadline reported Landgraf used the word “tsunami” and showed an image of a cannon shooting a huge stream of water at a person against the wall – comparing this to the amounts of money Netflix and Amazon are spending every day (sign me up to be on the receiving end of that.)

He also pointed about how local entrepreneurship is being crushed by emerging monopolies in the marketplace, though it is not known what monopolies he was referring to. Maybe Sinclair’s pending purchase of Tribune Media?


Empire creator Lee Daniels said the show’s content won’t be affected by the series’ move to the start of primetime, known as “the family hour” ages ago, but there will be less of an emphasis on guest stars. “They’re obsessed with the Lyons,” Daniels said. “So we focus more on our family.” Still, the guest stars who appeared last season will be back, in addition to Forest Whitaker, who plays an executive who gave Lucious his first airplay on a radio station. Also, Empire is crossing over with another one of his series (Star) when they both have their season premiere on Sept. 27.

The producers seemed to be in denial regarding Empire’s declining ratings and the tough competition it’ll face in the fall in its Wednesday night time slot. Maintain the status quo, I guess.

Interesting note on one of those guest stars (Lesile Uggams), who plays Lucious’ nasty mother:  In 1969, a variety show she headlined replaced The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, canceled by CBS after numerous run-ins with network management over content at a time the major networks were finally integrating their prime-time lineups [Smothers was actually canceled in April, replaced in the interim by Hee Haw.]  Uggams took questions on a press junket, a forerunner to today’s TCA tour.


During the panel for Ghosted, executive producer Adam Scott (who also co-stars along with Craig Robinson) compared his new Sunday night sci-fi comedy to ’80s buddy movies, such as Midnight Run. “[The movie]  was a real touchstone for all of us with putting the whole thing together, and that relationship in that movie was hilarious to be sure, but also had its moments where it was really moving and it was important to us to have those moments.” Scott noted. 

Ghosted is about two guys (Scott and Robinson) who team up to fight paranormal forces. Think of it as Ghostbusters, only with a duo instead of a quintuplet. Ghosted premieres October 1.

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